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Ashes Of Hope And Life

“For you are dust,

and to dust, you shall return.”

Genesis 3:19

I have a rather eclectic history in churches — I’ve been to Baptist services, ecumenical services, a Catholic mass, as well as nondenominational church services. But I’ve probably told you that before, dear readers. The Body of Christ is a beautiful, living organism filled with diversity in belief, creed, and tradition. I feel as though I am like a magpie, holding onto all the beautiful things I have experienced from each denomination. The ebb and flow of liturgy — which someone once told me meant “the work of the people — is one of those things.

Lent is also one of those traditions I’ve hung onto over the years. The somber remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ , the season of reflection and hope for grace has always struck a cord with me. Tonight, as I crept into the back pew of a church for the first time in probably a year, it struck an even greater cord.

Oh, what a season of sacrifice and somberness it has been, dear readers.

Yet, Lent does not always have to be so bleak.

To some, the ashes of lent are a reminder of the burnt palm fronds of Palm Sunday. The burnt remembrance of the ultimately less-than-sincere celebration of Christ’s arrival. The reminder of our fragility. The reminder of our mortality.

Yet, if we look at the situation in another way, they are the reminder that a new life awakens from the ashes. In just 40 days, we commemorate the rising of Christ from the grave. We celebrate the eternal life and love he made it possible for us to have. Without the ashes of Lent, we have no joyful Easter Sunday celebration.

In some ways, this mirrors our experiences during COVID. Without suffering, without uncertainty, we would not recognize the joy and beauty of well-being and stability. In this somber season, it is comforting to know the liturgy lives on without facing the changing tides and blowing winds of the world. Lent is here — we will observe this time period just as we have for years and decades before, unperturbed.

In Genesis, the Lord reminds Adam and Eve that they came from dust and would return to dust. As we receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, our pastor or priest reminds us of this as they draw the sooty cross upon our heads. Yet, I think this past year has also been such a reminder, with figurative ash instead of a smudge of black on our foreheads. We have given up so much — yet in the barrenness of it all, the pandemic has revealed so much in so many ways.

Lent, for all its somberness and reminders of our mortality, also provides us hope that a new joy is coming. Let us, in these coming weeks, not only reflect on the sorrow of Christ’s sacrifice, but in the coming joy that we know that he lives.

May the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ be a comfort to you, and may this season of Lent give you hope.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:19

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